This Outlander Recap contains spoilers for S03E6 “A. Malcolm”
Take the following ingredients: The story of a husband and wife that reunite after a painful 20-year separation, two incredibly talented actors that are 100% invested in the emotional journey of their characters, and 75 minutes dedicated to it. Mix them all together and cook them over an open fire, and the result will be this incredible episode.
“A. Malcolm” isn’t just great because Claire and Jamie are reunited in it; it’s great because it took the time to deal with every micro-aspect of their reunion. Claire and Jamie are incredibly happy in this episode: they kiss, they flirt, they have sex. They’re also awkward, shy, afraid, and self-conscious. There’s a fundamental tension in the episode caused by the fact that Claire has unexpectedly interrupted Jamie’s life, and that she now has to learn all of the million things that no historical research could have told her about his life. And boy, does this work incredibly well.
The episode begins on the morning, on the day of Claire’s return. The first scene opens with an unknown French woman fixing the stock of one James Fraser, in a purposely domestic looking manner. The point of this scene is clear: To get all the audience members who didn’t
skim through Voyager while waiting for Season 3 read the books to think this woman is Jamie’s wife.
Spoiler alert: She’s not.
As Jamie’s day begins, we are able to see a bit about his life since we left him at Helwater. We knew that the publication that Roger showed Claire last episode that Alexander Malcolm’s publications had been of a political nature, and with content that didn’t exactly favor British rule in Scotland. From what we see in this episode, we can see that this kind of document is the kind of stuff Jamie typically publishes and distributes. We also meet Lesley and Hayes, presumably two other ex-cons that are under Jamie’s wing still (they call Mac Dub). We also meet the charming Geordie, Jamie’s employee that is in serious need of a course on workplace etiquette.
Jamie sends Geordie on an errand. Shortly after, the bell rings and Jamie presumes that is Geordie. Of course, we all know that IT ISN’T GEORDIE, IT’S CLAIRE. THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE CLAIRE, HIS WIFE, HIS BROWN-HAIRED LASS. And when he turns, the episode picks up where “Freedom & Whisky” had left off: with Jamie passing out as he sees Claire.
It’s not until he wakes back up that Jamie realizes that this is really Claire: she touches him and he touches back. But after the initial shock has passed Jamie realizes he’s spilled his alepot all over his trousers and begins to take off his pants. It’s beautiful how for a moment he is unfazed by her presence (because it’s Claire, and of course he can take his pants off in front of her) but a second after all of that just disappears and they’re both awkward and embarrassed even after they both agree that taking off his stained pants in this scenario would be acceptable.
Jamie begins to slowly approach her and asks permission to kiss her. This scene honestly wins for “Best Musical moment” of the episode.
Not only for the swooning music that plays when they finally kiss after but for the 30 seconds of build up to that kiss.
Jamie begins to tell her about the visions he had of her, but how no matter how many times he saw her, she never touched him.
And the poor things are just so overwhelmed by each other, and they’re still sort of just processing it all.
Of course, and as a preview for a lot of what’s going to happen in the rest of the episode, is broken by the fact that Jamie has a life. Geordie comes back from the errand Jamie had sent him to and finds his boss, with no pants on, making out with a random woman as they both cry. Geordie quits on the spot, after this immoral display from his papist boss.
And for someone who only had a few seconds of screentime Lorn Macdonald (Geordie) was at the very least given some pretty hilarious lines.
Claire apologizes for the inconvenience and asks Jamie if he doesn’t have another pair of trousers. He begins to walk to the back of the shop where he has them, but turns around and asks Claire to join him. And, let’s face it, he’s probably super afraid that if he turns around and leaves her alone she’s going to disappear again.
After they switch to the other room, Jamie asks Claire about their child. Claire tells her they’ve had a daughter and proceeds to hand Jamie photographs of Bree. After an explanation of what photographs are, Jamie brings out his reading glasses so he can properly look at the pictures. Jamie’s a bit embarrassed by this, which prompts Claire to confess that she’d dyed her hair before coming.
I love this small acknowledgement of their age, and the insecurities that come with them, and every single time they reappear throughout the episodes. These moments serve the practical purpose of reminding us that although the actors haven’t aged that much, the characters have. Neither Caitriona Balfe nor Sam Heughan looks like your typical 40-something-year-olds, but scenes like these allow me to suspend disbelief for the characters feeling more real.
After Jamie has his glasses on, he begins to look at the picture of Bree.
I will say that out of all of the scenes in this episode, this was the one that left me a bit disappointed.
Now the scene itself is really lovely. A lot of it is not just about Brianna but about Claire sharing things about her and Brianna’s life that are totally alien to Jamie.
I had originally read this scene as Jamie being overwhelmed: Claire is back, she’s showing him these things called photographs, and he has an axe-holder, bikini-wearing 20- year old daughter with an awful name. I was still pretty disappointed we did not get to see Jamie breaking down over the pictures of Bree as he does in the book.
It was honestly one of the moments I was looking forward to the most in the reunion. I do like that he tells her the truth about Willie, but again I don’t think that replaced the emotional impact that his breaking down over Bree would have had, particularly since the only time he ever mentions Bree before the episodes, he talks to her as a child that he had lost and was still mourning.
I was giving the show the benefit of the doubt and was hoping that they would incorporate that moment later in the season. I was incredibly pissed off (which is a pretty hard thing to achieve FYI) when I found out that his meltdown was in the script but cut at some point during production.
I do like that Jamie tells her the truth about Willie at this point of the story. It also brings back the elephant in the episode: Jamie was alone for 20 years, and unlike Claire, he didn’t have a Frank-equivalent chastity belt. Claire was theoretically aware of this, but it’s a completely different thing to hear when this as a fact and there’s an adorable and spoiled kid to go with it.
And the same stands for Jamie. He begins to ask Claire about her marriage to Frank. He first asks if Claire had left Frank to come back, to which she replies. Claire tells her about Frank’s death and gives Jamie a few comments that begin to scratch the surface of the unhappy iceberg that was her marriage to Frank. This also fundamentally changes what Claire’s meeting with LJG will be like in the show since in the books he is the one who tells her about Willie.
Jamie eventually remembers that he has somewhere to be, but because he’s not letting Claire out of his sight, he asks her to accompany him. On their way to his meeting, Claire begins to tell Jamie about what happened to BPC after Culloden.
(Mark me: I don’t care what happened to fictionalized BPC. He sucks.)
We then get the second-most anticipated reunion of this episode: Claire and Fergus.
Claire is such a proud mamma in this scene, just look at her face.
And she looks in so much pain when she notices his missing hand, but how she’s trying to hold it back as to not make him feel bad.
Fergus is all like: yo, milady, where have you been the last two decades?
Claire follows the advice Frank had given her many years ago (Stick to the truth as much as possible, only changing the things that need to be kept secret) and says that, after Culloden, she thought they had all died and she moved to America.
Fergus seems really happy that Claire is back. However, he still takes Jamie to the side and asks him what he’s gonna do about…(mysterious thing that will not be mentioned)
If you’re familiar with the events of Voyager, your eyes are already rolling to the back of your skull. If you are not, all you need to know is that the matter is serious enough that Jamie’s first reaction is to say “I’m going to call my lawyer”. This is a better move than his book verse counterpart who just DOES NOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT THE ISSUE as if he ignores it will disappear.
However, the most important part of this scene has nothing to do with Jamie and his legal issues. No, the most important thing about this scene is the fact that NED GOWAN IS STILL ALIVE. HE’S GONNA SHOW UP. WE’RE GONNA SEE NED AGAIN AND HE’S GONNA BE WITH HIS BESTIE CLAIRE.
Jamie takes Claire to The World’s End ( a tavern) where he has a business meeting. There, Claire meets Jamie’s business associate Yi Tien Cho, who goes by the name Mr. Willoughby due to the fact that his name sounds similar to a Gaelic curse word.
I was a little worried about how this particular character was going to be represented. In the book, he’s almost a cartoonish cliche of a Chinese man who gets into trouble with prostitutes. While the prostitute issue still seems to be present, I do think his few minutes of screen time presented him fairly.
And to give credit where it’s due: it’s nice to see a non-European character in a historical drama that’s set in Europe. Contrary to popular belief, boats and trade were a thing in the 1700s — particularly if China was involved.
Also, shoutout to this moment when Claire almost accidentally introduces herself as Claire Randall and Jamie is having none of it. Also, he claims her as his wife (MY HEART!)
While Claire becomes acquainted with Willoughby, Jamie has a business meeting in what seems to be the storage room for The World’s End. Which, isn’t shady at all. Jamie also has some interesting bartering methods.
Jamie takes Claire back to the same building where he had been at the beginning of the episode. Now, if you were thinking that the place is Jamie’s house where he lived with his second wife then you are mistaken. Even worse than that; the places is a freakin’ brothel, the lady that was fixing Jamie’s stock is the matron, Madame Jeanne. And when they walk in in the middle of the night, there’s a bunch of people having sex in the open. Madame Jeanne is a bit offended over Jamie bringing Claire over to spend the night, at first because she thought he had brought a random woman as opposed to him hiring her employees, but even more so when she finds out Claire is his wife
But, Madame Jeanne isn’t going to argue with him, and they both go to Jamie’s designated room (where, indeed, you can hear the sex workers at work).
Claire is a bit overwhelmed by this since her first assumption is that the reason Jamie has permanent lodgings in a brothel is due to him being such a great customer. Jamie explains that it’s the other way around: Madame Jeanne is his customer, and his room exists mostly for convenience.This conversation becomes one of my favorite moments in the episode. It’s here that they both acknowledge that at this point, they have no idea who the other is. But still, they want each other, enough to go through this awkward re-learning. The music swells up, the steam begins to rise, and then….they are beautifully cock-blocked by the brothel’s cook. They proceed to have what seems like a delicious dinner of cheese, bread, meat, 20-years worth of conversations, foreplay, wine, and grapes.
The next scene is everything your ovaries were not expecting and more: A super mega long scene of Claire and Jamie undressing each other, with SO MANY parallels to their wedding night (this time, featuring a zipper). Of course, things are changed.
This time, when she’s finally naked in front of Jamie, Claire’s first instinct is to cover herself in embarrassment. And, just like on their wedding night, there’s a loooot of awkwardness. This time though, the awkwardness is completely different: they’re sort of disoriented with the other’s movements and keep hitting each other accidentally. Eventually, a switch goes off, when they sort of both realize that they’ve been waiting 20 years to have sex with each other again. And to be quite honest they are so friggin’ HOT.
And after they’re done? It’s so friggin’ CUTE. They’re laughing, feeding each other, kissing. They’re being openly affectionate in a way that we’ve never really seen them be before. We do get moments like this during season one, but they are both scarce and in a way a bit restrained. When they are first married we know Claire is reluctant to admit her feelings toward Jamie, and he is reluctant to admit his as to not to scare her.
We only get a few episodes with the two of them together and happy after she chooses to stay with him. The second season doesn’t’ really allow for a lot of moments like these: it’s too marked by Jamie’s post-Wentworth trauma, by Faith, and by the impending doom of Culloden. But after their long separation not only have they recovered from those traumas, but they’ve also gained a new appreciation for those small, intimate moments.
However their post-coital bliss doesn’t automatically erase the tensions from earlier in the episode: Claire still seems unsure about Jamie’s living situation, and she is trying to figure out what Jamie’s new profession is. Jamie is noticeably holding something back from Claire that he doesn’t want to reveal.
Eventually, he confesses that as a compliment to his printing, he is the 18th century equivalent of a drug dealer a smuggler of alcoholic drinks on the side. After this they have sex again; and if in their first round they were letting go 20 year’s worth of pent-up desire, this time they were letting go of 20 year’s worth of loneliness.
We also see Jamie’s scar from his wound at Culloden, and Claire promises never to leave Jamie again. He tells her that he was right to leave because it was done for Brianna’s sake. And when he says Brianna’s name I cried a little because of how he pronounces it. And I cried a little more when he told Claire that he knew she’d been a great mother and that through Bree they would live forever.
The following morning they’re still dealing with their emotions. Their love and their connection are still there, but when Claire tries to ask what it had been like when he’d been with other people, he sort of freaks out a little. She tells him that they don’t have to talk about everything right now, but that she only wants to know what thing: did he fall in love with anyone else? Without missing a beat, he answers no, and that he hadn’t loved anyone but Claire.
They start kissing, and for what feels like the 50th time this episode, they get interrupted (this time, by the brothel’s maid bringing breakfast). Jamie tells the maid to come back later. Claire asks him if he doesn’t t want to eat, and his response is “Oh aye, I’ve ordered a full English breakfast”. Now, if you’re rolling your eyes at that joke I’m just going to point out that every time we’ve seen Jamie go down on Claire it’s been in the morning. My point being: the showrunners are asking for every single “English breakfast” joke in the world.
But after this, Jamie has to leave Claire behind in order to deal with his business. He asks her not to go anywhere, which knowing Claire is probably a good thing. She tells him she’s not likely to go anywhere.
While he’s gone, a young man comes into Jamie’s room looking for him. He introduces himself as Ian Murray and Claire automatically puts two and two together and realizes that this is one of her nephews.
She tells him she’s his aunt and he’s a) surprisingly cool with the fact that he has a not-dead aunt b) super into the fact that she might possibly be a witch.
He asks her to tell Jamie that he was looking for him and leaves.
After this, Claire goes down to the brothel in search of food. She becomes acquainted with some of the sex workers who mistake her for a new girl. TBH these girls seem super fun, and they give Claire some professional advice.
However, when Madame Jeanne finds Claire sitting with them, she sort of loses her cool and sends Claire back to her room.
However, when she arrives she finds that there’s a strange man going through Jamie’s things in her room. When he finds out Claire is Jamie’s wife he asks her where he keeps his ledgers. Claire, of course, has no clue, and the guy threatens to rape her so he can get the truth out of her. He attacks her, and of course, this is where the episode ends.
That makes no sense. How would raping Claire be an effective way of getting the truth out of her?
Of fucking course.